Emperors and shepherds – a new translation of Luke 2:1-14

Posted: August 22, 2013 by J in Bible, Linguistics

Chapter 2

It happened in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first census to occur while Quirinius was governing Syria. And everyone was travelling to enrol, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth to Judea to the city of David called Bethlehem – for he was of the house and lineage of David – to enrol with Mariam his betrothed who was pregnant. And it happened while they were there that the days were completed for her to give birth and she bore a son, her firstborn, and wrapped him and laid him in a feeding-trough, for there was no place for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds in that region camping out and keeping guard over their flock in the night. And an angel of the Lord stood before them and the shining glory of the Lord surrounded them, and they were gripped by terror. And the angel said to them, “Fear not! For I am announcing to you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For born to you today is a Saviour who is Messiah Lord in the city of David. And this will be for you the sign: you will find the child wrapped and lying in a feeding-trough.”

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a huge host of the army of heaven, praising God and saying

Glory in the highest to God!
and on earth, peace among the people of his favour!

Gains? Generally a streamlined, faster pace with simpler syntax. This emphasises how the birth narrative is raced through quickly, in barest summary form, no lingering on details. Then the pace slows down for the shepherds’ scene, we get details, emotions, etc.

There’s a nice bit of ambiguity in the greek for ‘born to you today is a Saviour who is Messiah Lord in the city of David.’ Is he born in the city of David? Or is he Lord in the city of David – since he is Messiah? Which city is the city of David anyway? Thus the whole issue of Jerusalem and its relation to Messiah is introduced here obliquely. But it will come to dominate the narrative.

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